Sometimes it takes baby steps.
While one team has dominated the FCS national landscape in recent years, San Diego is doing all it can to keep pace at a smaller level in hopes of eventually turning it into something even greater.
The Toreros had little trouble in steamrolling their way to another Pioneer Football League championship with an impressive win over Morehead State on Saturday.
The win assured San Diego of the PFL crown and the league’s automatic bid into the upcoming national playoffs, which begin Nov. 30.
Dayton overcame an early deficit to defeat Drake. That win, coupled with Davidson’s triumph over Stetson, creates a logjam for second place in the league. Dayton, Drake and Davidson are all at 5-2 in league play heading into the final weekend of the regular season.
Butler and Jacksonville also won this past weekend involving PFL teams.
Marquee: Flyers Rally To Defeat Bulldogs
The top game in the Pioneer Football League lived up to its pre-game billing … for 30 minutes.
That’s when Dayton put everything together by scoring 21 points in the second half and held Drake to just seven points as the Flyers went on to defeat the Bulldogs 46-29 and crushing Drake’s chance at a share of the PFL championship.
Dayton improved to 5-2 in league play, while Drake dropped to an identical 5-2 mark. A win would have put the Bulldogs in a position to potentially tie San Diego for the conference championship depending on the outcome of the final week’s games.
Jake Chisholm ran for three touchdowns and Jack Cook added two of his own to spearhead the Flyers in their victory.
Drake got the upper hand early in this game, thanks to a pair of touchdowns in the first 11 minutes of the game.
Ian Corwin passed eight yards to Devin Cates for the first score with 11:49 to go in the first quarter to give Drake the 7-0 lead. Drew Lauer later ran in from 13 yards out and the Bulldogs found themselves in front 14-0 with 4:12 remaining in the period.
Chisholm scored the first points for the visiting Flyers when he ran in from nine yards out with just three seconds left in the opening quarter to cut the deficit to 14-7.
Drake regained its 14-point cushion a short time later when Lauer scored his second touchdown, this time from nine yards out. Alex Bray’s conversion run made it 22-7 at 11:53 of the second quarter.
Undaunted, Dayton responded by scoring the next 18 points to take a 25-22 lead at the break. The Flyers did so in methodical and electrifying fashion.
Cook got things rolling with a four-yard touchdown run at 7:34 of the period and Sam Webster made things tighter when he booted a 23-yard field goal with 31 seconds to go before halftime.
That’s when lighting struck.
Following a short kickoff, Drake was set up in great field position. But, Brandon Easterling picked off a Corwin pass at the goal line and returned it 100 yards for the go-ahead score as the clock expired on the first half. Cook passed to Adam Trautman for the two-point conversion and the 25-22 halftime lead.
Easterling picked off three passes on the afternoon, becoming the 11th player in Dayton history to achieve that feat.
Dayton began the second half by adding to its advantage when Cook burst over from one yard to increase the lead to 32-22 following Webster’s PAT kick and the Flyers. Chisholm added a 15-yard run in the final quarter to virtually put the game out of reach 39-22 with 7:58 to go in the contest.
Shane Feller tacked on the final points for Drake on a 22-yard pass from Corwin with 6:13 left in the game. Chisholm scored his final touchdown on a three-yard run with 1:22 to go.
Cook ended the day with 265 yards of total offense. He completed 15 of 20 passes for 193 yards and added 72 rushing yards on 17 carries on the day. Chisholm amassed 142 yards on the ground with 25 carries. He also caught three passes for 29 yards. Trautman was the top pass catcher with eight grabs for 104 yards for the Flyers.
Corwin had 306 passing yard after completing 20 of his 30 attempts. He was intercepted four times on the afternoon. Lauer finished with 106 yards rushing on 21 carries, while Feller led the way through the air with an impressive 120 yards on just four catches on the day. Cates added seven catches for 77 yards and teammate Mitch McFarlane added 55 yards on three catches.
Toreros Win … Again
The conductors may change but the train keeps chugging along.
Reid Sinnett passed for 224 yards and four touchdowns to help lead San Diego to a 52-20 win over visiting Morehead State on Saturday.
The win improved the Toreros to 7-0 in PFL play and was the 36th straight win for USD. The victory also assured the school of its fourth straight appearance in the FCS playoffs and the fifth time in six seasons.
The Eagles were no match on this day as San Diego scored the first 45 points of the game on the way to the win. After a narrow 3-0 lead at the end of the first period of play, thanks to a 42-yard field goal from Tanner Kuljian, the Toreros scored four touchdowns in the second quarter virtually seal the deal against the Eagles.
Michael Armstead got the train going in the second quarter when he took a pass from Sinnett and converted it into a 32-yard scoring play with 14:52 remaining in the quarter. Joseph Binda added a 50-yard TD run and Sinnett got into the fray with short three-yard run of his own midway through the period. Sinnett tossed one yard to Dalton Kincaid for the final points of the half that gave San Diego a comfortable 31-0 advantage at the intermission.
Binda scored his second touchdown of the game in the second half and the Toreros added TDs from Michael Bandy and Dalton Kincaid over the final 30 minutes of play to account for their scoring output on the day.
Sinnett completed 18 of his 30 pass attempts on the afternoon. His 38 yards rushing gave him 282 yards of total offense. Binda led the way on the ground with 16 carries for 121 yards and his two scores. Rhyle Hanson chipped in with 71 yards on 11 carries. USD amassed 266 yards on the ground against the Eagles on the afternoon.
Bandy finished with eight catches for 103 yards and the one touchdown, a six-yard toss from Sinnett that put the Toreros in front 38-0 at the time. Kincaid added 58 yards on four receptions on the afternoon.
MSU’s DeAndre Clayton managed to complete just 10 of 17 passes for 133 yards on the day. He tossed a pair of scoring passes in the game. He added 23 rushing yards, including a 14-yard scamper on the final play of the game to close the scoring.
Issiah Aguero paced the Eagles rushing attack. He had 14 carries for 111 yards, but MSU was limited to just 73 additional yards by seven different ball carriers on the day.
DeVonte Adams and Jordan Huffman both caught TD passes for the Eagles. Adams totaled five catches for 71 yards and Huffman added three receptions for 54 yards.
Dugger Sets New PFL Mark As Wildcats Win Big
Wesley Dugger rushed for 84 yards on 20 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns in helping lead Davidson to a 42-14 win over Stetson on Saturday. He also blocked a punt that was returned 15 yards for a touchdown in the second half.
Dugger’s two rushing touchdowns gives him 44 in his career.
The game was tied 14-14 at halftime, but the Wildcats scored for unanswered TDs to roll to the victory.
Davidson is now tied for second place in the PFL with Dayton and Drake, all with 5-2 conference records. Stetson, meanwhile, fell to 3-4 in the PFL with the loss.
Dugger scored on a one-yard run in the third period and later blocked a punt that Hunter Murphy returned 15 yards for another score for the Wildcats, who led 28-14 heading into the final quarter.
Davidson QB Tyler Phelps passed 20 yards to Jalen Staples in the fourth and backup Louis Colosimo completed a throw of 66 yards to Aris Hilliard for the final score of the game.
Dugger scored his first touchdown in the game with 8:35 left in the first quarter to give his team an early 7-0 lead. Jorrell Story’s one-yard run early in the second quarter gave the Wildcats a 14-7 advantage with 11:56 to go in the half.
Stetson scored for the first time when Gave DeFilippo ran in from two yards out to knot the game at 7-7 with 2:02 left in the first period. The Hatters tied the game 14-14 when Justin Curtis caught a 49-yard pass from Alex Piccirilli with 6:05 left in the first half.
Phelps and Colosimo combined to complete all five of Davidson’s pass attempts on the afternoon. Phelps completed four for 137 yards, while Colosimo’s only attempt resulted in the scoring pass to Hilliard to close out the game. It was the lone reception in the game for Hilliard. Three other Wildcats also caught just one pass.
Story’s paved the way on the ground for Davidson. He finished with a game-high 91 yards on 14 carries. The Wildcats racked up 277 rushing yards on 59 carries in the contest.
Stetson QB Gaven DeFillippo was also efficient at throwing the football. He finished with 95 yards after completing 13 of his 17 passes in the game. Piccirilli added 57 yards on two of three passing. Jalen Leary rushed for 37 yards in the game as the Hatters were held to just 81 rushing yards on the day. He and teammate Justin Curtis each caught four passes and combined for 103 through the air. Curtis had 78 of those yards, while Leary’s catches went for 25 yards.
Dolphins End Long Losing Skid
It took some time. And then some more time. And then some more.
Calvin Turner scored on a 10-yard run in the second overtime session to give Jacksonville the lead and then Kyree Woods recovered a fumble near the goal line to secure a 52-45 win over Marist on Saturday.
The game featured 10 lead changes and 964 yards of total offense by both teams.
The win snapped a six-game losing streak for Jacksonville, which won for the first time in PFL play this season. The Red Foxes dropped to 3-4 in the PFL and 3-7 on the season with the heart-breaking setback.
Luke Paladino connected on a 45-yard field goal as time expired at the end of regulation to tie the game and send it to overtime. His kick bounced off the upright before falling over. Austin Day would run in moments later from five yards out as Marist took the early lead in the first extra session.
Turner finished the game with 178 yards of offense for the Dolphins. He rushed 25 times for 103 yards and a pair of touchdowns, both coming in overtime. He also completed all five of his pass attempts for 78 yards and one touchdown in the win. Jackson also got rushing touchdowns from Garrett Nicolas, Sean Despenza and BJ Riley.
Nicolas led the ground attack with 147 yards on 17 carries to join Turner in reaching the 100-yard plateau on the day. Despenza scored on his only carry, from eight yards out with 11:18 remaining in the third period to give the Dolphins a 31-28 lead at the time. Riley, who carried the ball twice in the game, scored just over nine minutes later when he went in from five yards.
Maurice Flournoy also got into the scoring act by returning a block field goal 88 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter for the Dolphins.
Austin Day passed for 310 yards after completing 22 of 33 pass attempts and threw for two scores. Hunter Cobb had a huge day for the Red Foxes. He carried 22 times for a game-high 151 yards and scored three times. He scored on a pair of one-yard runs and also added an 80-yard scamper that tied the game 14-14 early in the second quarter.
Scott Scherzer caught two passes for 77 yards and one touchdown (30 yards), while Joe Petro collected three receptions for 60 yards and a 34-yard scoring pass in the game.
Butler Wins As Time Expires
Butler has not had many things to hang its hat on this season. But nothing injects momentum into a team more than a game-winning rally.
The Bulldogs got a healthy does of momentum by overcoming a halftime deficit to defeat Valparaiso 24-21 in dramatic fashion.
Drew Bevelhimer connected on a 38-yard field goal as time expired to provide the winning margin as Butler won just is second PFL this season and is now 2-5 in the PFL. Valparaiso fell to 1-6 in league play and 1-10 on the season with the setback.
The Crusaders, who led 14-7 at halftime gave up a pair of touchdowns in the second half and trailed 21-14 in the final minute. Cody Boxrucker’s five-year run tied the game 21-21 with just 19 seconds to go and overtime looming on the horizon.
Butler would have nothing to do with that. Valpo even helped.
AJ Deinhart returned the kickoff 28 yards to the Butler-35. QB Sam Brown connected Stephen Dennis for a 15-yard gain to midfield on the first play and Brown followed with a run of nine yards. A personal foul against Valparaiso advanced the ball and setting up Bevelhimer for a 43-yard attempt to try to win the game. The kick was short, but the Crusaders were whistled for offsides and giving Butler new life and Bevelhimer made the most of his redemption.
It also capped a wild fourth quarter that saw Butler grab its first lead after the slow start to the game. Nick Orlando ran in from one yard out to put the Bulldogs in front 21-14 with 4:37 remaining in the game.
Butler had tied the game 14-14 late in the third period when Johnny O’Shea caught a short five-yard pass from Brown with 1:05 left in the quarter.
Ollie Reese scored a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter that allowed Valparaiso to gain the advantage. He scored on a 22-yard pass from Chris Duncan for the first score of the game with 8:17 left in the period. His 33-yard touchdown on another pass from Duncan came with 48 seconds remaining in the half.
Butler tied the game for the first time in between those two scores by Reese when Brown found Davis for a 13-yard scoring pass at the 4:39 mark.
Brown finished the game with 209 passing yards after completing 23 of 38 passes. Brad Sznajder led the way on the ground with 73 yards on 19 carries to lead Butler in that department. Dennis ended the game with a season-high 143 yards after catching 11 passes.
Duncan accounted for 366 yards of offense for the Crusaders. He completed 21 of 39 passes for 264 yards in the game and added 102 yards rushing on 19 carries.
A native of Bismarck, N.D., Ray is a graduate of North Dakota State University where he began studying athletic training and served as a student trainer for several Bison teams including swimming, wrestling and baseball and was a trainer at the 1979 NCAA national track and field championship meet at the University of Illinois. Ray later worked in the sports information office at NDSU. Following his graduation from NDSU he spent five years in the sports information office at Missouri Western State University and one year in the sports information at Georgia Tech. He has nearly 40 years of writing experience as a sports editor at several newspapers and has received numerous awards for his writing over the years. A noted sports historian, Ray is currently an assistant editor at Amateur Wrestling News.